Causal connection

Drug incidents, thefts decrease in 2006 for Craig Police Department

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Seen by Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta as a sign that anti-drug efforts are making an impact, drug-related incidents reported to the Police Department in 2006 decreased for the first time in five years.

"I'm more excited than anything else that drug (violations) are down," Vanatta said Tuesday, the same day he presented the City Council with the department's annual report. "I think it's a good indicator that maybe all efforts ... are coming together and finally having an impact."

From 2001 to 2005, drug incidents reported to the Police Department rose more than 200 percent, from 23 incidents to last year's 88 incidents. Last year, there were 69 drug incidents, a 22 percent decrease.

Vanatta cited education and prevention efforts by the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotic Enforcement Team and the Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse organization as helpful in reducing drug incidents.

The drug incident decrease is particularly good news, Vanatta said, because drug activity and other crimes have a causal relationship. The department also saw a decrease in burglary offenses (13 percent), building thefts (40 percent) and thefts from vehicles (42 percent).

Other offenses, categorized as Group A offenses in the National Incident Based Reporting System, decreased by 13 percent total. Crimes in Group A that decreased from 2005 to 2006 include vehicle theft, fraud, forgery/counterfeiting and shoplifting.

Crimes that increased in the category are forcible sex offenses, intimidation, simple assault, vandalism/criminal mischief and weapons violations.

But, while some crime categories have decreased, Police Department calls for service increased. There were 16,937 calls for service in 2006, a 13-percent increase from 2005.

That figure represents about 1,303 calls answered per 13 patrol officers, Vanatta said.

The top 10 calls for service, according to the report, included traffic stops, security checks, animal complaints, follow-up investigations, other agency assists, community policing contacts, noise complaints and suspicious person reports.

Thirty percent of the total calls were priority one calls, or calls that require immediate response.

A department committee, which meets periodically thr-oughout the year, will use information in the annual report and a public survey (see related story, page 3) to set goals for the coming year. The committee will incorporate those goals into the department's strategic plan.

"There are lots of areas I think we can tweak and make better," Vanatta said.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

  • raig Police Department answered 17,000 calls for service in 2006
  • 1,800 of the calls were criminal complaints
  • Police maintained a 44 percent case clearance rate
  • Burglaries, aggravated assaults, thefts and other offenses decreased

The biggest public safety concerns are drug-related problems and underage alcohol use, according to results from a Craig Police Department-issued survey.

The Police Department circulated the survey, the department's first attempt at gauging public opinion in five years, in September 2006. Information learned through the survey was included in Tuesday's release of the Police Department's annual report.

Residents also included illegal immigration, traffic violations around schools, sex offenders, theft, influx of oilfield workers and courts/district attorney's office letting offenders off with little punishment as top safety concerns.

About 550 surveys were delivered to residents between September and December 2006. Residents who had any contact with law enforcement, or had been victims, offenders or witnesses to a crime were not allowed to respond to the survey.

Twenty-eight percent, or 156 residents, returned the survey. This figure pales in comparison to an identical 2001 survey, which had a 67 percent return rate.

A majority of survey respondents, 96 percent, are white. Five percent are Hispanic. Most respondents -- 130 -- have lived in Craig for four years or longer, and are 35 to 54 years old.

Ninety-six people responded to the survey's section on public safety concerns.

Police Chief Walt Vanatta said the survey is a tool used to measure the department's integration into the community, public expectations and the department's delivery of services. It also helps provide future direction, Vanatta said.

Thirty-four residents said visible police presence, neighborhood involvement, better prosecutions of meth offenders, improved street lighting and teen driver restrictions would enhance their feelings on safety.

Some other categories residents commented on are:

  • Level of service: 99 people said police service is about right, 31 said they did not know and 18 said service was inadequate. These results were on par with the 2001 survey.
  • Quality of service: 80 percent of respondents rated service as good to excellent.
  • Preventing crime: 83 people rated police crime prevention was good; 27 said it was fair and 21 said they did not know.
  • Reducing residents' fear of crime: 17 people reported the department does an excellent job in this area, 69 people responded that police did a good job and 35 reported fair.
  • Delivering full range of service: 67 people responded that police do a good job offering a variety of services, 30 people said police service range is excellent and 25 rated the subject as fair.

Two areas in which the department can improve, according to survey results, are preventing social disorder and learning/spending time with residents. Twelve and 17 people rated the police poor in these categories, respectively.

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